Is one of your loved ones celebrating their 40th, 50th, 60th or 70th birthday this year? As you might already know, very old vintages of Rivesaltes and Banyuls are one of our specialities here at iDealwine. It’s therefore the perfect opportunity to treat those dear to you to a vin doux naturel (natural sweet wine) from their birthyear. These rich, fortified wines have a special place in our hearts and every year, we offer a selection of old (and very old) vintages.
Rivesaltes is a vin doux naturel, a fortified wine. To produce this delicious sweet wine, a base red or white wine (usually of Grenache) has neutral grape spirit added to it during alcoholic fermentation, which halts the process. Part of the residual sugar is thus conserved in the wine, and the volume of alcohol is also increased with the addition of the eau-de-vie. The resulting wine is richer in both sugar and alcohol that traditional wines, hence its astoundingly long aging potential After vinification comes élevage. Rivesaltes, like all other VDNs, are oxidative wines. This means that during élevage, in oak barrels or in demijohns and usually for several years, the wines are deliberately exposed to the air. Sometimes demijohns are kept in the open air for part of the élevage so the wine is also exposed to sunlight. Élevage can easily take up to 50 years! This approach significantly alters the taste of the wine, as it does with vin orange. In the case of VDNs it reduces the primary aromas (fruit) and concentrates the tertiary aromas (produced during élevage) of dried fruit, leather, tobacco and nuts. These wines are oxidative rather than oxidised. Oxidative winemaking is a highly specialised, deliberate and meticulous process that is skilfully carried out by the producer. It should not be confused with oxidation, which is a fault and a sign of a tired, poorly aged wine that has developed unpleasant nutty and overcooked apple aromas.
The end result is thus a wine which can range in colour (golden, ruby, dark brown), with an array of aromas, from leather, coffee, tobacco and cocoa to dates, prunes, fig and above all, walnut and almond. The slight bitterness is known as ‘rancio’. Their richness in sugar and aromatic intensity can be daunting but in reality, these wines are generally very balanced and retain a stunning freshness. Rivesaltes wines can be enjoyed perfectly on their own, without food. They are better at the end of the meal rather than as an aperitif (their richness and power could overwhelm your taste buds). They make an excellent digestif and can also take the place of dessert or follow on from it. Rivesaltes make for some interesting food and wine pairings. They work very well with dark chocolate (low in sugar and high in cocoa) and so of course pair well with all types of dark chocolate dessert (mousse, fondant, etc.). Another good pairing is with a nut tart (a match made in heaven with those rancio aromas). Rivesaltes and blue cheese is also an excellent combination (for the contrast). Give it a try!
These are highly original wines which are worth tasting at least once in your lifetime! Given that many domains which used to produce Rivesaltes have ceased production, the jewels of the south are becoming more and more rare… Below, our selection of vintages ending in 9: